Today’s card is the Gooseberry, also known as Ribes grossularia in scientific terms. The fruit of the gooseberry makes a remarkably delicious and sweet pale pink jam which may be why the interpretation of its letter in the Ogam, Ifin, means ‘sweetest of woods’ in the language of the druids. Once used to ease the pains of labor, this bush is traditionally associated with childbirth. The gooseberry is therefore sacred to a number of fertility and mother goddesses, particularly the Celtic goddess, Brigit, who was said in one latter tales to be the midwife of the Virgin Mary during the birth of Jesus. It was also sacred to Juno, mother of the Roman gods. Its connection with ancestry derives from its connection with this aspect of childbirth because it is said to bring the wisdom of the ancients to the newborn child.
In ancient times, the Germans planted gooseberry around their cowsheds. This was due to a belief that the thorns of the bush would ward off witches and faeries. The spines themselves represent the prickly nature of forming a relationship with the Divine. The Mysteries of ancient wisdom are guarded against the casual observer and only those who use care can discover the fruit that lies beyond the danger. In Britain they also told of a ‘Gooseberry Wife’ who sometimes appeared as a large, hairy caterpillar and was used to threaten small children who misbehaved. “If you go out at night, the Gooseberry Wife will get you” is still a saying you might hear in the Isles. The gooseberry was also thought to cure sties merely by pointing the thorn at the eye and repeating the words ‘away, away away” until the inflammation was gone.
I ate a ton of gooseberry jam when I was a kid. My grandmother had one gooseberry bush in her yard and she made a fresh but small batch each year that she shared with us on holidays and at sleepover breakfasts. It is especially poignant to me, therefore, that this card speaks to us of ancestral wisdom. Ancestral wisdom embraces the most profound levels of knowledge and lore that is available to us at the DNA level. Ancestors are not only the people that precede us in our lineage but they are also all those who have gone before us as human beings. In nearly all cultures, the ancestors are seen as guardians of the Otherworld, acting as gatekeepers of all the knowledge that has ever been learned by mankind. Every thought, idea, dream, or word that ever existed can be accessed when we have a profound need or question. This card tells us that we have a right to seek the collective wisdom of the ancients and that to do so is timely, necessary, and safe.
May you speak with the ancients today in your waking and sleeping dreams!